THE BLOG

Why 30 Million Men Joined Ashley Madison

09/14/2015 11:36am ET | Updated December 6, 2017
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

2015-09-10-1441908400-901269-HIH_AshleyMadison1_9.10.2015.jpg

When hackers exposed the 30-million member list of Ashley Madison, the extramarital affairs website, many families suffered. Sadly, there has already been a report of a suicide.

One of the more surprising revelations of the hack was that most of the members were men. We weren't surprised. Over the past 35 years we've worked with hundreds of people whose lives have been disrupted by affairs. That experience tells us that men don't join "affair" sites because of sex; they do it because of fear.

What motivated these men to want to have an affair -- or multiple affairs?

Is it just that men are prone to be unfaithful? Is it that they're liars and can't be trusted?

Or is it that they're married to women who are terrible spouses -- that they were somehow driven to seek intimacy and comfort outside their relationships?

And what about the number of celebrity marriages that are breaking up, or the bizarre mid-life crisis exploits of male celebrities? (We're thinking of Charlie Sheen here.)

Are some men just dogs? Do women need to be constantly on guard?

In this post, we want to expose the real reasons we think so many men are turning to extramarital affairs -- and what you can do now to affair-proof your relationship.

The 3 Needs Cheating Men Are Missing

"Ashley Madison is the world's leading married dating service for discreet encounters."

These are the words on the homepage of the recently-hacked site.

And while "married dating" is one of the biggest conundrums we've heard of, it's no secret that the members aren't really doing much "dating."

But what if we told you that the real reason men turn to a site like this has nothing to do with sex?

That the problem isn't their wives or their relationship at all?

In fact, men place their marriages, their families, their careers, and their lives at tremendous risk because they are trying to erroneously fulfill three key needs (and getting naked isn't one of them):

Unmet Need #1: Connection

Most of us enter into relationships poorly equipped to identify our feelings and share them with our partner, but men suffer from this the most.

Society has historically taught men that it's not okay to feel their feelings, and it's even worse to show any kind of weakness.

It is only through emotional transparency and honest sharing that we get closer to others. When men aren't vulnerable with their women, it leads to a lack of safety and trust within the relationship.

But here's where it gets more interesting: most men don't know this. So, when they feel disconnected from their partners, all they feel is the lack of intimacy. They immediately blame the relationship or their partner rather than recognizing that it is their own inability to create connection that has caused them to feel dissatisfied.

"Mid-life crisis" is real: Over time, the pent-up feelings reach a tipping point. And since men don't recognize the true root cause of the problem, they try to address only the symptom by seeking intimacy outside the relationship.

Unmet Need #2: Newness

Think cheating men are tired of the same old positions in bed? Or that they want a woman who will "do" certain things their wives won't?

That's not the newness we're talking about.

We were amused when we heard Jimmy Kimmel refer to "the girlfriend experience." Turns out he was saying that men wanted to be with a woman who treated them the way their wives did when they were still dating.

Here's what's at the bottom of this: Because these men don't have the tools to create connection with their wives -- in real life -- they try to work out their unexpressed feelings through fantasy.

When you're Charlie Sheen, you take off with porn stars. When you're the guy next door, you go online.

Unmet Need #3: Creativity

All of us have a need to express our individual creativity. By creativity, we mean whatever moves you.

But men are especially prone to working too much in an effort to gain status, move up the ladder, and be good providers.

Meanwhile, creativity suffers. Unless they're in jobs they thoroughly love, they might be making money, but they feel deeply unfulfilled.

There isn't a light bulb that flashes to let a man know, "Hey, buddy, just because you're tired of sleeping with your wife doesn't mean that your marriage has lost its sizzle for good. Is it possible that YOU'VE lost your mojo?"

Most of the time, this is exactly what has happened. When partners devote even 10 minutes per week to their own individual expression of creativity, the relationship itself gets a passionate recharge.

Wake Up In A Brand New Relationship With Your Partner

Ashley Madison's slogan is "Life is short. Have an affair."

We think life is too short to have an affair -- to cause unnecessary suffering to yourself and your loved ones.

And life is certainly too short to miss out on the closeness you can experience right here within the relationship you have right now.

People don't understand that authenticity is really sexy and that being open to your partner is the easiest and fastest way to establish intimacy.

Being emotionally transparent -- especially when it comes to sharing your scariest feelings -- can open the gateway to safety and trust in your relationship. Your partner will feel it's okay to share his or her feelings, too. And then you get to use that connection to build something really great within the relationship -- rather than looking outside to a fantasy that will only perpetuate pain.

We don't have to tell you that the rush of an affair is short lived. Yet the bliss that comes from a truly connected relationship can last a lifetime.

When you commit to building true intimacy, you can create an exciting, sexy new relationship with the partner you already have. You can deepen your connection to the point that you'll want to court your partner all over again. That's what we call married dating!

Katie and Gay's free relationship e-newsletter, Hearts In Harmony, explores the challenges and glories of lasting love. Based on the tools they've developed throughout their 30+ year marriage and taught to thousands, you'll learn powerful insights and practical techniques you can start using today -- whether you're in a relationship or eager to attract one. www.heartsintrueharmony.com

___________________

If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.